Merseyside is served by an “outstanding” fire service that is area leading on prevention according to emergency service inspectors.
As part of its third assessment by HM Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) was said to be outstanding in three areas of inspection, with five more deemed as good. The service covers more than 250 square miles and dealt with almost 19,000 incidents last year.
A wide-ranging report detailed how work remained to improve the service’s approach to culture, fairness and equality but praised its progress since officials visited the region two years ago.
Of the 23 stations in Merseyside, 13 are crewed around the clock, seven days a week. The report said the number of fire engines in service had been increased to 32 “ based on a reassessment of the resources needed to respond to high-impact incidents.”
It said, “The service’s teams work well together and with other relevant organisations on prevention, and they share relevant information when needed. The service uses information to adjust its planning assumptions and direct activity between its prevention, protection and response functions.”
Among the examples highlighted was the service’s introduction of a targeted prevention campaign following a fatal fire last January, providing information about the hazards and risks associated with charging electric bikes and scooters. Firefighters worked with prevention advocates to support the community.
Additionally, MFRS was said to work well with schools and communities across the region to “target and educate people with different needs who show signs of fire-setting behaviour.” The report added, “When appropriate, it routinely shares information with relevant organisations to support the prosecution of arsonists or to direct them towards restorative justice practices. Each district in the service has an arson advocate who shares intelligence with a range of partners including Merseyside Police and Liverpool Council.
“The arson advocate is supported by a group manager who investigates arson and deliberate fire incidents.” MFRS is the lead for a number of national issues and was praised for its work responding to major incidents, “such as wildfires in neighbouring fire and rescue service areas.”
The report said: “The service has identified lithium-ion batteries as a new and emerging risk to people and property due to fire-related incidents. There is a dedicated innovation fund in the 2023/24 budget to support work dealing with this risk.”
Last year, MFRS and the authority which oversees it was caught up in the energy crisis that engulfed Liverpool Council. The city provides electricity to the fire service and costly mistakes added to bills skyrocketing at schools and fire stations.
The report said despite this, MFRS had taken steps to make sure it maintains “sound financial management.” It said, “For example, there have been issues with the management of the contract for the provision of energy, which is managed through Liverpool Council.
“We were told by staff that the case was reviewed and due diligence completed to provide assurance that appropriate contract management arrangements are in place. We have been provided with evidence to demonstrate that the service’s procurement of electricity and gas is subject to appropriate governance.”
While there were a number of successes, inspectors said more could be done to “make sure its values and behaviours are demonstrated at all levels of the organisation and diversify its future and current leaders.” Issues around middle management behaviour had been raised within the report and described as “not aligning with the organisation’s values.”
Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan said, “I am very pleased to see these excellent results from our latest inspection which show sustained improvement. We have shown that we have listened to feedback from previous inspections and built that into genuine real-word improvements that are making the service even better at protecting the people of Merseyside.
Chief Garrigan added how he had “never been prouder” to be leading the organisation and wanted to “build on the outcomes of this report and find even more innovative ways to keep our communities safe.”
Cllr Les Byrom, chair of the Fire and Rescue Authority added, “This is another incredible outcome and reflects the hard work, long term commitment and effort put in by everyone across the service, demonstrating consistent performance at the very highest level.
“We have actively listened to what His Majesty’s Inspectorate have said and we will continue to move forward to ever greater achievements- everyone should be rightly proud of their contribution to the service and the people of Merseyside.”